The power of Game of Thrones’ fandom is impressing the entertainment industry yet again. Sources say advance IMAX ticket sales have been strong for the premium theater chain’s highly unusual screening event showcasing two Thrones episodes along with the trailer for the show’s upcoming fifth season.
Though box office numbers are not yet available, we’re told some of the 200 theaters that have booked Thrones have sold out screenings, particularly theaters in larger cities. After an initial burst of fan interest, IMAX insiders expected sales to “hit the wall” and decline—instead, interest has been accelerating. Sources say an average weekend take for an IMAX theater is $4000-$5000 per screen, but Thrones is tracking like it’s going to easily exceed that—which is rather impressive for a screening that’s essentially a TV show’s repeats on Super Bowl weekend.
The numbers are nowhere near the enormous per-screen average of an blockbuster new release like Interstellar, of course, but they eclipse the pre-sales of nearly all of IMAX’s previous non-new-release special event screenings.
IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster tells EW he booked Thrones—the first TV show to ever receive a showcase in the format – to help fill a gap during what is traditionally a very slow time of year at the box office. Foster said he had an instinct the acclaimed fantasy hit would perform well. “We announced this and our website crashed,” Foster said. “As soon as that happened, my instinct didn’t matter; [the interest] became empirical. Then a week later, we announced we were moving the date to accommodate more theaters, and the website crashed again—twice. So that was a pretty good indication.”
HBO programming president Michael Lombardo said he struck the deal to spur interest in the show’s upcoming season (which debuts April 12), rather than to generate revenue per se. His expectations were likewise relatively modest, figuring that any fan dedicated enough to attend an IMAX screening would have already have watched the episodes when they aired last year.
“If we were premiering the first episode of the new season in IMAX, I wouldn’t have been surprised,” Lombardo said. “But that’s not what we’re doing. It’s very heartening and surprising that people are willing to pay money and drive somewhere to re-experience a show they’ve already seen and now want to see again on a big screen with friends and family.”
The screening includes last year’s penultimate action-packed episode “The Watchers on the Wall” and the Emmy-nominated season finale “The Children.” Foster assures the lavishly produced series based on George R.R. Martin’s bestselling novels looks excellent after being converted to the technically demanding ultra-large screen format. “I know everybody calls Thrones a television show, but it looks like a movie,” Foster said. “It’s unbelievably cinematic. It blew us away.”
Thrones opens for a one-week engagement on Thursday night. Tickets are available through IMAX’s website—that is, assuming it doesn’t crash again.